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Physics grades: do they change overtime as you progress towards your degree

  1. Jun 21, 2007 #1
    I am majoring in physics and math. Last semester , as a first year college student , my overall physics GPA was a B- . and My overall math GPA is a B . I took two courses in introductory Newtonian mechanics and and introductory calculus based electricity and magnetism. I was wondering if their any fellow physics majors who received a similar grades that I received but the 2nd year , you went from getting only B's and C's to mostly A's and B's .I would like to know why your grades may have changed the following year.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 21, 2007 #2
    Mine were high, took a nose dive once I started taking more core classes, then came back up once I discovered what it took to perform better. For the most part though, it was too little too late. I did manage to get into a graduate school (Masters) and did well there. Hopefully the past won't haunt me too badly if I choose to enroll for a PhD one day.
  4. Jun 21, 2007 #3
    you act like getting grades is some kind of phenomenon that you can make predictions about. the classes will get harder, i'm willing to bet that for most people their grades suffer a little in the final years of their degrees.
  5. Jun 21, 2007 #4
    What was your final physics GPA during your undergraduate studies
  6. Jun 21, 2007 #5
    my grades were mostly low B's first year, second year I finished with mostly high B's and low A's (but i got a C+ in complex variables:frown:)...anyway, all I really did was structure how I go about reading/studying for a class...some classes (eg. EM theory) I would have to do alot more reading outside of class and really couldn't rely on my lecture notes, and other classes (eg. Differential equations) i was able to understand everything without taking notes or reading much...just a matter of figuring out your strengths and weaknesses
  7. Jun 21, 2007 #6
    That was bold to ask ;) But I'll answer anyway. It was C range (~2.5). Again, it was mainly from poor performance early on. I had to do extra work to sort of play catch up for more advanced courses. My last few semesters I had 3.0 or higher, which is probably why any grad school accepted me at all.
  8. Jun 21, 2007 #7
    :surprised where did you get into?
  9. Jun 21, 2007 #8
    I'd only asked because I thought you had to have a GPA of 3.0 or higher to be accepted into grad school. for my school, your GPA has to be at least a 3.8 to be accepted into the physics grad program.
  10. Jun 21, 2007 #9
    what school?
  11. Jun 21, 2007 #10
    Your first year at university can be a little difficult to adjust to and your grades may suffer. But, after your first year you should start to get the feel for how to handle your time and the best way to study.

    With that being said, most students tend to do better towards the end of their undergraduate career because you typically are done taking general education classes (classes outside your major) and can focus on the classes in your major. In addition, these are usually the really interesting classes and doing well in them is usually not difficult since this is your major and you should be very motivated and interested in the work.
  12. Jun 21, 2007 #11
    I've read students admitted to Stanford grad school (for physics, at least) have around a 3.8
  13. Jun 22, 2007 #12
    :cool: name
  14. Jun 22, 2007 #13
    Heres how mine progressed. I have to say though, that these 4.0 scales on are so lame. It was all % based when I actually took a class. The GPA would be like this first one, 9.00/3.0 = a 3.0 (B).
    I think 94-100 = 4.0
    89-93 = 3.5
    85-89 = 3.0
    81-85 = 2.5
    77-80 = 2.0
    I hated how they implemented this conversion. My overall WAG was pretty much 90.0 on the dot, thats a 3.5 right? So can I say that? But because of how badly they did the conversion, and the teachers graded without the thought of 3.0/3.5 there were alot lot that were 1 point below an A or a B+/A-. So I got screwed and ended up with a 3.2 GPA overall. Though a 90% average overall isnt a 3.2... Oh well. Here are my grades, I really dont care about privacy, and I'm not super proud of them or anything. At my school, the higher the level the class got, the less people, which meant more teacher time. That meant they ended up knowing exactly how much you understood and didnt have to always rely 200 question tests to gauge your understanding. This led to pretty much every upper end teacher to either give you a 93/94 (3.0/3.5 see my dilemma?! big difference for one point) or an 87 or a fail. 3 options. I felt it was a good way to do it.

    Remember, the gpa is the last nimber (9.0) divided by the first (3.0) = 3.0

    PHYS 110 M Physics I: Mechanics 3.00 88 9.00
    PHYS 111 M Physics I: Mechanics Lab 1.00 87 3.00
    PHYS 224 M Electricity & Magnetism 3.00 90 10.50
    PHYS 225 M Electricity & Magnetisim Lab 1.00 94 4.00
    MECH 210 M Mechanics I 4.00 90 14.00
    PHYS 372 M Optics I 4.00 87 12.00
    PHYS 362 M Modern Physics 4.00 89 14.00
    PHYS 342 M Materials Science 4.00 89 14.00
    PHYS 452 M Thermodynamics & Stats Physics 4.00 94 16.00

    The Next 4 were all the same semester. Only classes I had that semester and got one of my worst grades (a C in Acoustics). The class was really too easy and I got bored; I couldn't answer questions on the test because they were too vague. Like : "What is the envelope of a wave?" Well, in my head it was the changes in the amplitude of the waves in the wavepacket with respect to its FT. WRONG! The correct answer was "The envelope is the TONE of the wave." It was totally a blowoff class for Mech Eng's and I took it treating it like I was Quantum at the time. Was too dumbed down for me. (I did argue this question with him and he ended up giving me the point.)

    MECH 310 M Mechanics III 4.00 95 16.00
    PHYS 382 M Acoustics I: Sounds & Sources 4.00 80 8.00
    PHYS 462 M Quantum Physics 4.00 95 16.00
    PHYS 474 M Optoelectronics 4.00 92 14.00

    PHYS 412 M Theoretical Mechanics 4.00 98 16.00
    PHYS 499 M Photonics and Fiber Optics 4.00 100 16.00

    MATH 102 M Calculus II 4.00 88 12.00
    MATH 203 M Multivariate Calculus 4.00 83 10.00
    MATH 204 M Diff Eq and Laplace Transforms 4.00 91 14.00
    MATH 307 M Matrix Algebra 4.00 88 12.00
    MATH 305 M Numerical Methods & Matrices 4.00 79 8.00 (Worst Class in college, which is funny because its what my thesis was on and I received honors on it)
    MATH 313 M Boundary Value Problems 4.00 91 14.00
    MATH 412 M Complex Variables 4.00 90 14.00

    So thats it. I really could have done better, but I'm not that unhappy. I did quite well in my upper end courses which I feel matter most (and I was most interested in).
  15. Jun 22, 2007 #14
    Much respect to you, Healey, for not being afraid to post up your grades for all to see/scrutinize/criticize.
  16. Jun 22, 2007 #15
    Well I'm already in grad school so i figure my undergrad scores can't matter much further.
  17. Jun 22, 2007 #16
    Unlike most of the other things in physics, we have no formulas to predict the probabilities of academic outcome.
  18. Jun 22, 2007 #17
    Hmm, I think everyone in this thread is missing the point. I believe what the OP was trying to say was this:

    "I didn't do as well as I had hoped as a freshman. I really enjoy math and physics, but didn't perform as well as I know I can because of [insert 'I was partying too much / was homesick / have never been challenged in high school therefore had no study skills / I already took physics in high school so I was bored with getting essentially the same material rehashed at me' here]. Has anyone else on these forums come back, grades-wise, from a similar situation?"

    So, OP, is this what you meant to say? I don't think you were asking for someone to pull out a crystal ball and predict your GPA for the next few years; just some encouragement. So yeah, do your work and you'll be fine. When I was a freshman, I did horribly worse than you did (was a health issue, but that doesn't change the faact the grades sucked).

    Two semesters ago I got a 3.9, and last semester I got a 4.0. So yes, you can improve your grades (with a bit of effort) even if you had a rocky start.
  19. Jun 22, 2007 #18
    I'm not going to say, but there are schools (typically smaller, underfunded) that will take those with lower than average undergraduate grades. But lets just say that I didn't have any "safety" schools to apply to. I was fortunate to get in somewhere.

    A few things that worked in my favor:
    1. Upward trend in grades in the final few semesters
    2. Undergrad school is of decent reputation
    3. The graduate school I applied to has a Masters program (many don't admit just for a Masters) and typically Masters students there don't get funding.
  20. Jun 22, 2007 #19
    lol why would you not say? its not like someone is judging you. i was just surprised
  21. Jun 22, 2007 #20
    My freshman year I was too busy playing video games and did quite poorly. The following year I did much better (~3.66), and the next year better (~3.8) and again the next year even better (~4.0). So, I guess yes grade can change over time. My major GPA has not changed much over the years, but if anything it has gone slightly up (~4.1).

    edit... I have never heard of a grad school requiring a 3.8, but I am sure there are many that expect a 3.8, or at least many have such a GPA.
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